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Hurd Hatfield
Hurd Hatfield 1945.jpg
Publicity photo of Hatfield, 1945
William Rukard Hurd Hatfield

(1917-12-07)December 7, 1917
New York City, U.S.
DiedDecember 26, 1998(1998-12-26) (aged 81)
Resting placeCremated[1]
Years active1941–1991
Notable work
The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)

William Rukard Hurd Hatfield (December 7, 1917 – December 26, 1998) was an American actor. He is best known for having played characters of handsome, narcissistic young men, most notably Dorian Gray in the film The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945).[2]

Early life

Hatfield was born in New York City[3] to William Henry Hatfield (died 1954), an attorney who served as deputy attorney general for New York, and his wife, Adele (née McGuire). He was educated at Columbia University, then moved to London, England where he studied drama and began acting in theatre.

Acting career

He returned to America for his film debut in Dragon Seed (1944), in which he and his co-stars (Katharine Hepburn, Akim Tamiroff, Aline MacMahon, Turhan Bey) portrayed Chinese peasants, some more convincingly than others. Hatfield's second film, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945), made him a star. As Oscar Wilde's ageless anti-hero, Hatfield received widespread acclaim for his dark good looks as much as for his acting ability. However, the actor was ambivalent about the role and his performance. "The film didn't make me popular in Hollywood," he commented later. "It was too odd, too avant-garde, too ahead of its time. The decadence, the hints of bisexuality and so on, made me a leper! Nobody knew I had a sense of humour, and people wouldn't even have lunch with me."[4]

His follow-up films, The Diary of a Chambermaid (1946), The Beginning or the End (1947), and The Unsuspected (1947), were successful, but Joan of Arc (1948) was a critical and financial failure. Hatfield's film career began to lose momentum very quickly in the 1950s, and he returned to the stage. His subsequent movies included supporting roles in The Left Handed Gun (1958), King of Kings (as Pontius Pilate) (1961), El Cid (1961), Harlow (1965) (as Paul Bern), and The Boston Strangler (1968). He cut back on performing in the 1970s. His later movies included King David (1985) and Her Alibi (1989).[5]

He appeared frequently on television and received an Emmy Award nomination for the Hallmark Hall of Fame videotaped play The Invincible Mr. Disraeli (1963). In 1957, he appeared in Beyond This Place, directed by Sidney Lumet. Hatfield's other television credits include three guest appearances on Murder, She Wrote opposite his Picture of Dorian Gray costar Angela Lansbury, who had become a lifelong friend, and who had a home in County Cork. He also appeared as the villain in the second episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, titled "The City Beneath the Sea". He appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Presents in "None Are So Blind", which first aired October 28, 1956.[citation needed]

In 1952, Hatfield appeared as Joseph in Westinghouse Studio One's The Nativity. This was a rare commercial network staging of a 14th-century mystery play, adapted from the York and Chester plays.[citation needed]

In 1966, he appeared on the television series The Wild Wild West in an episode titled "The Night of the Man-Eating House". In a twist on his Dorian role, his character starts as an old man who, upon entering a house inhabited by the ghost of his mother, is turned back into a youthful Confederate soldier. A second appearance in the third season episode "The Night of the Undead" had him portray the vengeful and mad Dr. Articulus.[citation needed]

According to the magazine Films in Review, Hatfield was ambivalent about having played Dorian Gray, feeling that it had typecast him. "You know, I was never a great beauty in Gray...and I never understood why I got the part and have spent my career regretting it", he is reported to have said.[6]

Personal life and death

Having been introduced to Ireland by actress and former co-star Angela Lansbury, Hatfield lived at Ballinterry House, Rathcormac, County Cork from the early 1970s. He purchased the structure to save it from demolition and he spent 24 years restoring and renovating it. A keen collector of antiques and art, he referred to Ballinterry House as a painting which he never would finish. He died in his sleep of a heart attack at a friend's home, aged 81, after celebrating Christmas dinner.[7]

Hatfield never married. His long-time close friend and colleague Maggie Williams was heir of both Ballinterry House and his collection. She maintained the historic Irish country home exactly as it was at the time of Hatfield's death. The house was sold in late 2006, and the entire contents of the Hurd Hatfield Collection were sold at an auction on the premises by Country House Antique & Fine Art Auction in March 2007.

At the time of his death, Hatfield was writing his autobiography.[2] He was cremated, and his ashes scattered.[1]

Hatfield was a Democrat, supporting Adlai Stevenson's campaign during the 1952 presidential election.[8] He performed several times in the Soviet Union and developed a deep interest in Russian culture and religion. His interest ran so deep that on his deathbed, a Russian Orthodox priest attended him and officiated at his funeral.[7]

Selected filmography


  1. ^ a b Wilson, Scott (August 19, 2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons (3d ed.). McFarland. p. 323. ISBN 978-1476625997.
  2. ^ a b Mank, Gregory William (2001). Hollywood Cauldron: Thirteen Horror Films from the Genre's Golden Age. McFarland. p. 296. ISBN 978-0786462551. Retrieved 5 November 2016.
  3. ^ Willis, John (July 1, 2002). Theatre World 1998-1999. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 261. ISBN 978-1557834331. Retrieved 5 November 2016.
  4. ^ Vallance, Tom. "Obituary: Hurd Hatfield". The Independent. Retrieved 2016-07-16.
  5. ^ Gussow, Mel (December 29, 1998). "Hurd Hatfield, 80, an Actor Known for Dorian Gray Role". The New York Times. Retrieved September 21, 2017.
  6. ^ Bachardy, Don (1985). "Camp David". Films in Review. Archived from the original on 2007-08-17. Retrieved 2007-09-05.
  7. ^ a b "Manhattanite of many parts". The Irish Times. January 8, 1999.
  8. ^ Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, page 33, Ideal Publishers

External links

This page was last edited on 1 July 2020, at 05:29
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